Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Switzerland vs the World

As you may or may not know, I am half Swiss. Half Swiss and half Welsh: Swelsh. (If there are any other Swelshies out there let me know; I suspect we are a rare breed.)

And for a while now I have been collecting things to do with Switzerland. Not tourist stuff, like mugs and T-Shirts, but things I see which either take the mick or honour the small country. For example, in Germany a few years ago I came across a magazine (in German) with the following cover;

In my very limited German, I got the gist that this was saying that the Swiss were boring, that they couldn't speak German, that they were crap at Football… It turned out the whole issue was dedicated to the Swiss. A German magazine dedicated to a tiny, non-European country; I found this fascinating! For some reason people are intrigued by the Swiss; maybe because they are a very private nation with some very dark secrets, a nation where four cultures are united but in constant dispute over whether to become part of Europe. But what is often forgotten is that Switzerland has also produced marvellous things; chocolate, cheese, Jean-Luc Goddard, Roger Federer, and Alberto Giacometti, to name but a few.

So when I was in Arles this year, my eye was caught by a book called Switzerland vs the World. Published by Riverboom, the book “tells the story of the unique visual match between Switzerland and the rest of the world”. It is essentially asking "What is typically Swiss? What is the same, and what is different, in Afghanistan, China and the United States?" The answer is given in a series of photographic typologies of certain categories, (fur coats vs burkhas, alpine beards vs Hindu-Kush beards, chariots vs lawn-mowers). With each typology appears a small text, discussing the category in each country, and deciding which country “wins”. It is a chance for Switzerland to strike back, to reclaim its place in the world. The result is light hearted and humorous, and an entertaining read for anyone, not just the Swiss!

These small thumbnails don't really do it justice, but you get the idea. Sadly, it isn’t distributed in the UK just yet. You can order it online though, from Riverboom. And you can read more about it and see some of the double page spreads here.


  1. And not forgetting the Swiss cabinet now has a majority of women members !

    My long anticipated break in Grindelwald next week has been postponed due to a delayed work-project, grrrr.


  2. Hi Carole,

    it's Till from Germany. Arles 2010 camping, remebmer? I just found your blog, searching for this book on German Google. (Yes, it's a small world!) There really isn't enough information on this, in my opinion. Anyway, I just bought a copy at this year's Rencontres. Love it.

    We were back at the camping space this year in Arles, guess we didn't run into you opening week!

    If you are interested you can find a post on my thoughts regarding the Rencontres 2011 over at my blog:

    BTW: Dummy, is one of the few German Magazines, worth reading regularly (great photography, also).

    Alright, take care.


    P.S.: If you want to, follow me back on twitter (@onko).


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